LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Less than one year removed from a successful two-sport career at suburban Dallas' McKinney High School, Matt Lipka took advantage of an opportunity to get his first taste of competing with and against Major Leaguers.
Designated an extra for Saturday's split-squad game against the Mets at Champion Stadium, Lipka was inserted as part of a fifth-inning double switch. Just a few minutes after the 18-year-old shortstop took the field, he dove to his right and prevented a sharp grounder from reaching the outfield grass.
Less than five minutes later, Lipka opened the bottom of the fifth by sending a Pat Misch pitch down the right-field line for a leadoff double, showing Braves fans some of the speed that helped him become an All-State wide receiver in Texas.
"He threw me two changeups, and then I just waited back on the last one and just kind of did a defensive swing and sprayed it out to right," Lipka said. "Any time you can play with these guys and hang out with all the big guys, it's going to improve your game and increase your desire to get there a little sooner."
After crossing the plate on a Nate McLouth sacrifice fly, Lipka slapped hands with Chipper Jones as the veteran third baseman was strolling to the plate. Jones had played at least 180 professional games before Lipka was born.
Lipka, who was selected in the first round of last summer's First-Year Player Draft, was designated as an extra in one previous split-squad game earlier this month, but didn't play. His parents arrived in the Orlando, Fla., area two days ago and were in the stands to see their son make his entrance.
"I'm sure they were thrilled," Lipka said. "They timed it perfectly."
Beachy impressive while Minor works on curve
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- While his good friend Brandon Beachy was cruising through the Tigers' Major League lineup, Mike Minor spent Saturday afternoon attempting to get a feel for his curveball in a Minor League game.
Both exited their outings excited about what they had accomplished, but still not knowing what roles they'll have when the regular season arrives in less than two weeks. One will serve as Atlanta's fifth starter and the other will be a part of Triple-A Gwinnett's rotation.
"I feel pretty good right now, whether I make the team or not," Minor said. "I feel good either way."
Minor surrendered five hits and four runs -- three earned -- in six innings against a group of Nationals Minor Leaguers that didn't include Bryce Harper. At the same time, Beachy was about 20 miles away, limiting Magglio Ordonez, Miguel Cabrera and the rest of the Tigers' lineup to one hit over five scoreless innings.
"All I can do is go out there and try to put up zeros," Beachy said. "Anything that happens, is out of my hands. If I get the job, that's awesome. If I don't, I understand completely. Mike's a great pitcher. It's not really for me to worry about at this point."
2010 Spring Training - Atlanta Braves
News & Features
- Cox gets baseball fix managing Future stars
- Graham fine with starting season at Double-A
- Braves return to their old Mississippi digs
- Gattis, Uggla turn on power against Future stars
- Venters slated for elbow checkup with Dr. Andrews
Sights & Sounds
Spring Training Info
Instead the 23-year-old left-hander took advantage of the chance to work on his curveball, which has proven inconsistent since the start of last year.
"Overall I feel like I accomplished something today," Minor said. "I didn't really worry about the numbers or the outcome. It was more or less the pitch outcome. I didn't care if they hit it. My stuff just felt a lot better today."
While Gonzalez and pitching coach Roger McDowell were in Lakeland watching Beachy's game, highly respected pitching instructor Dave Wallace was watching Minor work on his curveball on one of the back fields.
"If I threw a bad one, I doubled up and threw a good one," Minor said. "I'd say about 80 percent of them were strikes today. Today I felt like I could throw it with some effort, and when I wanted to bury it, I could throw it with more effort."
Beachy, signed as an undrafted free agent in 2008, and Minor, taken with the seventh overall selection in the '09 First-Year Player Draft, have said they aren't allowing themselves to become so concerned with the competition that they overlook preparing for the season.
"I don't know if I'm necessarily motivated by him, but I mean, he's a friend of mine," Beachy said. "I like watching him pitch, and he's good. I don't really necessarily need extra motivation to get out there and give it everything I've got. I think I do that every time out. To say there's something a little extra going because of the competition, I wouldn't call that correct, just because I don't have any extra to give on any day."
Conrad flashes glove, makes noise with bat
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- When Brooks Conrad was charged with a pair of errors during Friday's loss to the Mets, it was natural to link it to the defensive nightmare he experienced at the end of last year.
But when Conrad returned to work Saturday, he provided a reminder that last year wasn't all bad. The utility man made a sensational diving stop on a sharp second-inning grounder and drilled a two-run homer in the fourth in a 3-3 tie with the Mets at Champion Stadium.
"There's been a lot of action, especially the last couple of days," Conrad said. "I'm feeling good out there and having a good time."
Multiple members of the Braves' coaching staff have said they do not know how Conrad could have been charged with an error when he dove to stop a Jose Reyes grounder Friday.
"He's been playing good defense for us," Braves bench coach Carlos Tosca said. "He's got a nice clock working out there right now. He's made some nice plays the last couple of days."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.